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Wichita State University was not tied to Rader's actions, officials say

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 11:03 a.m.

Dennis Rader's guilty plea Monday confirmed what many had already assumed — that the BTK serial killer is an alumnus of Wichita State University.

Following Rader's confession that he was the serial killer, people with ties to the campus emphasized that his acts have nothing to do with the university.

Rader graduated from WSU in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in administration of justice, which is now known as criminal justice.

Former longtime dean of students Jim Rhatigan said he didn't have much to say about Rader's attendance at WSU.

"He's an evil man," he said. "He could have been anywhere, so his university experience has nothing to do with it."

Investigators long suspected the killer had attended WSU.

Rhatigan said police interviewed him many times over the years, looking for information.

The English department at the university was a focus of officers because they believed BTK took a folklore class from former professor P.J. Wyatt.

Police announced a link last year, saying Rader's 1978 poem "Oh! Death to Nancy" about his murder of Nancy Fox was based on a folklore song "Oh, Death" that Wyatt taught in class. The Fox poem and a letter were believed to have been photocopied at WSU.

Police later asked for the class rosters of Wyatt's students to try to identify the killer.

English professor Don Wineke said police interviewed him years ago and showed him writing samples and crime scene photos.

"It didn't seem from the information I was shown that he had a full college education," Wineke said. "He didn't write like an educated man. We might have given him some of the material for the bad poetry he wrote."

Wineke pointed out that a large public university such as WSU can't be held accountable for Rader's behavior.

"I've never felt yeah, 'We made this guy possible for the world,' " Wineke said. "I'm sure we've had more than our share of criminals go through the educational system."

Both Wineke and English professor emeritus Jim Erickson had DNA swabs taken by police during the course of the investigation.

Erickson said police told him they were just doing it because of BTK's suspected connection to the university.

"I feel no particular response to it except that education doesn't solve everything," Erickson said. "A lot of people seem to think we can educate people into paradise. Well, we can't."

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